Good Snow Hunting – Part II Conditions Du Jour

| April 7, 2009 | 1 Comment

Part of the reason I don’t care very much about a ski’s crud-busting characteristics is that I seldom ski crud.  This could be because I live in Utah, the fluff-bunny capital of the snow world, but we have plenty of crud here as well if you really want it.  Most people don’t.

I don't know if there is a term to describe this type of snow, aside from "good skiing." It wasn't ice, corn or really even wind buff - just nice edgeble snow. Photo by Courtney Phillips.

The hunt for good snow starts with forming a thesis as to what might be the best possible conditions for any given day.  If it hasn’t snowed for a while, but there have been, cold, clear nights, recrystalized powder might be forming up in sheltered, north facing, mid to upper elevation slopes.  A string of warm days and cold nights mean that a corn cycle might be setting up, in which case the south facing slopes would be the first place to check, then onto the east facers.  High winds can scour a windward slope down to excellent wind-buff, but leave the traditionally better leeward sides a funky mess.  When it comes to skiing powder days (or weeks) after a storm, mid elevation, sheltered, north facing slopes are generally the last hold-outs as they don’t get hammered by the wind, melted by the sun or warmed by the temps of the lower elevations.  Even if it has just rained, a moderate angle, upper elevation slope might have some excellent compacted snow.

Having trouble deciding what might be good on any given day? Rule out some possibilities by thinking about what would be really bad, like wet, roller balled slop in a narrow couloir. Noah Howell making the best of it.

An essential element of forming a snow thesis is to keep an open mind as to what “good skiing” will mean on any given day.  Powder is the obvious answer, but you can waste a lot of time and ski a lot of cruddy snow looking for something that perhaps just isn’t there, and in the meantime pass up some excellent alternatives.

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Category: Tips & Technique

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (1)

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  1. Friend of Tom Diegel says:

    I find this posting (and the prior) to be pretty fluff bunny itself. Suffering breeds excellence in skiing. I grew up in VT, skied CO for 5 years and OR and WA for a season each. UT is a pleasure to visit but it lacks grit and personality (we’ve all had similar dates). You’ve gotta love the soul of skiing to do it where I do. We eat what we’re fed. It makes it all that mo’ betta. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t stop showing up……..write more about your travels….we know where you live is the “best”.
    JJ

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